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Applying the Elements of Design to Your Kitchen

Elements of design are the building blocks of art for good reason. They also happen to work when it comes to planning and laying out your kitchen. Whether you are all about luxury or bound to the basics, awareness of these fundamentals can make all the difference.


Tip #3: Where can I save money and what items are worth the splurge?

Many of our clients begin kitchen remodeling projects in the summer.  Kids are out of school and our commitments tend to be less (for some of us) in the summer months.  Today’s client query is one that I hear a lot.  Naturally we all want to get the most for our money in all our investments but where can you save money in a kitchen remodel and what items are worth the splurge?

The answer to that is largely subjective as we all have differing needs and priorities.  That said, there are some principles that should never be compromised and those include efficient use of space, safety and the best quality you can afford.

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Tip 2: New Cabinets, All or Nothing?


Anyway where were we??  Ah yes, I was sharing with you five big questions I get from clients.  The first post in the series was about under cabinet lighting and here is number 2:

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Elements Converge In Dream Kitchen

The after effect

Another year is winding down.  We have been blessed  again with many interesting projects.  As we are in “finishing up mode” I thought I’d share with you one of the best of 2011.  This project was a true collaboration.  Our clients, a couple of sweet snowbirds from Chicago, were very hands on which made it fun to see this kitchen take shape.  The existing space was on the small side, the cabinets a little dated.

This is the before which is not the worst but these girls had bigger dreams...


Still before

Our assignment was to add a whole range of  state-of-the-art appliances and a clean unique contemporary feel that would flow into the existing family room.  Naturally storage and function were also of the utmost importance but the real challenge was in fitting it all in!!

Here's one of numerous perspectives during the design process.

They chose a rich coffee bean stain for the cabinets to match existing cabinetry in the family room.  The cabinet fronts were not ordinary doors, no way.  Together, with our clients, we designed the Soldono and the Soldono Pacifica Doors just for this job.  The Soldono custom door features a cherry frame around a horizontal grained oak center panel all stained in a rich espresso color.  The center panel is beveled on one end with stainless steel grip strip inset on the frame.  No hardware sticking out in this kitchen! A select few of the upper cabinets sport the Soldono Pacifica custom door which received center panels in olive ash burl veneer for a huge shot of “unique”.


Close up of the Soldono Pacifica door featuring Olive Ash Burl veneer center panel

Stainless steel serves as an accent finish and is found in the appliances and in the monster-multi-functional Hafele appliance garage.  Refrigerators are Subzero, ovens are by Gaggenau, cooktop is by Miele and the dishwasher drawers are by Fisher Paykel.  Thank you to Linda Roberts at House of Appliances for her guidance.   Counter tops are Caesarstone quartz by Stone Palace and the backsplash is painted glass by Florida Shower Door & Mirror, Inc. Clearly they do much more that shower doors!  Perhaps the “piece de resistance” however is the glass tile behind the hood.   It truly looks like water cascading down the wall behind the hood!  The sink is a Precision by Blanco and the glass theme is picked up again with the glass table.  You can find a listing of all the trades on the Local Resources page here at Kitchens for Living.



Blanco Precision Stainless Sink. We love the square bottom.


Counter between Subzeros offers handy landing space

Is it water or is it glass? I think it's sublime...



I write about a lot of varied things on this blog.   Today I’m going to open my  mind to you so you can step inside the creative (or whatever you want to call what goes on in there) process, as it pertains to cabinet design.  The thing about designing kitchens and baths is that it  doesn’t  only require vision in the aesthetic sense but also in the functional sense.  We have to be creative in terms of the space constraints while being very aware of  function.


Yikes! I prefer to believe they left in a hurry. The pressure's on with all those doll eyes upon me.


This is a nursery equipped to serve the nanny.  She’s got an under the counter refrigerator to store bottles, baby food and wine whatever she wishes for herself.  In addition there is a small sink and a microwave.  There is also storage and counter top work space (underneath all the debris).  That’s a lot of function packed into less that six lineal feet!  The lucky owners of this oceanfront abode are away for the summer, as is the custom in Palm Beach.


I have been asked to replace this set up but to keep the same foot print and function.  The cabinets are to be more in keeping for this  traditionally styled beach house.


The backsplash (area between counter and upper cabinets) is really high, about 22″.  Not only does this mean less cabinet space but it’s a bit of a stretch unless you’re a very tall nanny.  In addition, there is nothing tying the upper cabinets to the lower cabinets and since they do not go wall to wall it looks as if the uppers are just hanging out, hovering over the base cabinets, not a great look.  In general the layout is off kilter.  The microwave requires a deeper cabinet and it sticks out unattractively on the left.


The appliances are old and will appear even older surrounded by new cabinets.  Remember that if you are investing in a new kitchen it’s penny wise and pound foolish to try to build your new cabinets around your older appliances.   I will suggest that we replace the microwave with a small built-in model in stainless steel.   For this I know I must use a minimum of 24″ out of the 70″ I have available.  The refrigerator is important too.  This one is old and it’s an odd size, about 19″.  The new one will have to be 24″ and I will reccommend that we build it in for a more custom look and to unify the small space.  These types of built-in panel- accepting- under- the- counter refrigerators are either 15″ wide or 24″ wide.  I certainly can’t detract from the function by going smaller so I will give them more refrigerator space by going with 24″ wide.  Now that I know what I’m doing with the appliances I will work the cabinet layout around that.

Testing the waters...


Here’s phase one showing the larger ref, a built-in micro and an attempt to even things up and connect the uppers to the bases but it’s still not quite there yet.  I usually draw a free-hand sketch to work out my initial thoughts.  The final solution (I drew it using Chief Architect) is to use 42″ upper side cabinets instead of the existing 30″ uppers.  Then since the microwave needs a deeper cabinet (15″), I moved it to the middle and raised it up to create some design interest and to take advantage of the tall ceiling.  I made the side backsplashes 16″ high with the center at 19″.  I centered the 24″ upper microwave over a 21″ wide sink cabinet which allows the bigger refrigerator on the right and does not lessen the size of the existing drawers on the left.  I’ll need a minimum of 3/4″ panel to the right of the ref.  That makes a total of 24 3/4″ with ref and panel.  I will duplicate that on the left making the 4 drawer cabinet 24 3/4″ wide as well.  This allows the upper side cabinets to be equal at 23 1/4″ each.  Last but not least, I am going to suggest using matching wood beadboard above the 4″ backsplash to tie the uppers to the lowers and add a small crown moulding on the top to finish it off.

There you have it!


Here are the goods and why I picked them:

Kholer faucet K7342 in brushed nickel finish– It’s a traditional faucet in a finish that will blend with the stainless steel of the microwave.  The height makes it user friendly yet it will fit perfectly in the space.

If you have your hands full the handles are easy to turn on and off.

Kohler undermount entertainment sink K5848– I love the shape of this sink.  I double checked the size and it fits in our 21″ wide cabinet.  It’s a more updated undermount model but it’s still cast iron.  I’m specifying Biscuit to go with the cabinets but I will also suggest a stainless option which would also work.

SHARP R1214OVER THE COUNTER MICROWAVE– This model fits into our 24″ wide space.  It requires a 15″ deep cabinet, check.  It has a light below and I happen to know that Sharp makes a kick-ass microwave.

CABINETS BY HOLIDAY KITCHENS– flat panel with applied moulding. Finish, selected by designer, to be Snowdrift paint with Mink Wash.  I chose Holiday cabinets because we have some custom size requirements and I can order Holiday in fractional increments.  They also offer a wide array of finishes and door styles which is important in a higher end application.

Cabinets are something like this.

U-Line Under the counter refrigerator – This model offers an overlay trim kit option which will allow us to apply a door panel to match the cabinets.

What do you think?  You see there’s no mystery behind the magic of design.  Those are the steps in a nutshell.  I would love to walk you through the steps of your own potential magic.  It’s really a lot of fun when it all comes together, kind of like solving a puzzle AND you get to continue to enjoy it everyday!



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